Friday, June 30, 2017

Let's Talk About Our Bodies

The time has come. Y’all, dare I say, it’s the moment so many of us have been dreading…

Maybe that last sentence doesn’t make you cringe. And if so, TEACH US YOUR WAYS. But for most of us, this isn’t exactly our favorite time of year.





Iced coffee?


But swimsuits?


Bare the back fat? Show the stretch marks? Reveal those long-lost legs? Let the below-the-boob pooch see the light of day (what is up with that stuff anyways!?)?

Umm, no thanks.

I wish it weren’t this way. I wish I could take a giant eraser to our culture and eliminate all the shame associated with our bodies and all the self-worth we wrap up in it too. I wish there was much less focus on the exterior. I dream of a day when our eyes aren’t tuned to assess, to judge to size up the bodies of those around us. It just happens, doesn’t it? Automatically.

Last weekend, we celebrated a Father’s Day Re-do. The actual day the week prior had been less than ideal in the Crozier household. I’ll suffice it to say there was car trouble, unanticipated expenses and a whole lot of stress. It was far from relaxing for my husband (or my children or my parents or myself for that matter), so I promised Graham in particular another celebration to redeem the first.

The weather was perfect, the kids’ attitudes were tumultuous; it was shaping to be a typical Saturday. We donned our swimwear, packed a “Dad Picnic” (chips, guac and beer), and headed out to explore a new river, about 40 minutes southeast from our home. I was mentally prepared to be the “on” parent that day, allowing my husband an opportunity to relax and read a book with his toes dipped in the water. And for once, that actually happened. I know you were probably anticipating a tale of a plan gone awry, but this time, the sailing was smooth.

The day was fabulous from all outward appearances. Graham read his book and the kids and I waded in the water, our swimsuit-clad bodies smothered in sunscreen. I'd experiences a welling of insecurity that morning when I’d slipped into my swimsuit. I tried to ignore it. Was it just me or was the bottom fitting more snugly than it had back in April? Hopefully not.

When we arrived at the river, I was grateful to stumble upon our own private beach. No fellow beachcombers to judge the stretch marks I was sporting or the massive precancerous-mole-removal scars across my back. Phew! I began engaging with the kids and even stopped worrying about my body for a short while when the squirt guns came out of the beach bag. The distraction was good. I had to think about my placement on the rocky shore - too close to the kids and it was guaranteed I'd be pelted with streams of freezing water. But too far away? Then I couldn’t return the fire.

My three-year-old son was being hysterical in the best sort of way. All I had to do was point my squirt gun in his general direction and he would stumble away shrieking and dodging and eventually, losing his balance and falling down in laughter. His giggles were contagious and I soaked up his joy as I oriented my stream of water toward his legs. Suddenly I became aware of the fact that I’d forgot to think about my body and whether it was looking OK in my swimsuit. What a phenomenon! I was playing with my kids and wearing a swimsuit and *almost* not even caring about it! Glory! 

Of course this blissful moment was short lived. Waves of insecurity about my body surged and receded just as steadily as the water around my ankles. I was grateful for the presence of my husband and biggest fan. He knew nothing of the mental battles waging in my head but anytime negative thoughts began to take over, he would shoot me a timely look. His gaze sent a message that was loud and clear: he liked the way I looked.     

I let his glances of affection affirm me, let his teasingly-raised eyebrows communicate to me that I’m OK the way I am, stretch marks, scars, belly pooches and all. This stamp of approval helped mediate my critique of myself for the rest of Saturday but when I awoke on Sunday, I was in a nasty head space. I kicked off the morning by getting on the scale (always a terrible idea), testing the previous day’s notion that my swimsuit had seemed tighter. The numbers I saw at the tip of my toes confirmed my suspicion. And those numbers have battered and haunted me all. week. long. I can’t get dressed without feeling down on myself. I can’t look in the mirror without thinking horrible thoughts about my body.

Suddenly my sense of self-worth has tanked because of three stupid numbers. No, my friends. Just no. This shouldn’t be. This is messed up thinking. I am a nutrition professional and I know it. But my degree does not make me immune to the struggle. You know it too. I know you do. We live in a very image-focused society and it is absolutely pummeling us.    

Ladies (and you Gents too!), this has got to change! I hate that so many of us have grown to view our bodies with such negativity. This sour attitude is pervasive and damaging and certainly not something to be ignored. These bodies, these exterior shells – they are the vessels for our souls. They are the work of an Artist, a Creator who does not make mistakes.

So let’s stop with the negative talk. Are there going to be things we dislike about our bodies? Always. But we owe it to our kids and to ourselves and more than anything to our Creator to combat these negative attitudes.

Summer feels like a fitting time to spend a little time here, thinking about our bodies and challenging the notions our culture, our upbringings, and even messages the church has taught us regarding them. Let’s do a little series. Let’s talk about our bodies and figure out together how we can begin to see them as the gift that they are. Will you join me?

When I woke up this morning, I wasn’t sure what I would be writing about but I prayed that the Lord would guide me. And folks, I think this is it. Someone out there needs to explore this with me. Someone needs to be encouraged here. It might not be comfortable but it needs to be addressed. So let’s go there together. Until next time, I’ll leave you with this little tidbit to ponder:

Though it is never our intent. when we criticize our bodies, we put down the glorious work of the Great Artist. We are His masterpiece! Let's learn together to see ourselves that way, shall we?

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